Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Adding Some Color

When I decided to go out yesterday, I knew that it was going to be warm. In fact, we've been having several days of unseasonably warm weather, and I'm sure that no one would have faulted me if I wore one of my yukata to go to Nihonmachi- San Jose's Japantown. Unseasonably warm though it may be, I am something of a traditionalist, and I simply couldn't bring myself to break out the yukata, the quintescential summer garment, in the first week of October.

Fortunately, I do have some hitoe (unlined) cotton kimono and just finished making a very light-weight juban so that I could go out without feeling that I was doing some disservice to the calendar, even if the weather was paying no mind to the date.

The kimono that I decided to wear is the lighter-weight cotton kimono of the two that I currently have, and it's patterning is very subtle, so picking an obi to go with it was something of a challenge. For such a demure kimono, I needed something that would be very striking. My roommate Ann (who is responsible for many of the photographs that appear here, as well as tying my obi and keeping my collars straight) has a stunning nagoya obi that fit the bill perfectly.

Front view. With so much of the obi-age showing, I'm presenting a very youthful look.

Back view. You can tell I had help-- my taiko is perfectly level. Also, note the little tassels peaking out from under the bottom fold; this is not a usual feature of this musubi style.

I don't usually reach for so much red in my wardrobe, but there were several things I did with this look to keep the vibrant color from being overbearing. My han-eri is a cream color and breaks up the space between my skin and the kimono collar and keeps the red of the kimono from becoming unflattering to my complexion. My kanzashi has a very long fall of flowers, so the extra white and cream helps to soften and frame the look. For contrast, my fan is black, with hints of a yellow-gold tone, bringing the hints of black in the obi a little father up into the whole ensemble.

The nagoya obi is a very formal sort of obi, especially with all of the gold embroidery, and so pairing it with such a casual kimono might be considered a bit of a faux pas if the whole look didn't come together as well as it does. I decided to use two obi-jime for this look; both are in yellow tones and complementary to the obi. Normally, one obi-jime would be sufficient, but I like the look of the two tones (and have used it in other ensembles). While Ann was getting my bow tied, it occurred to her to let two of the little tassel ends of the obi-jime hang down, just peeking out from the bottom of the bow. Normally these would be tucked up and out of sight, but I liked the little touch of whimsy that they added to my bow. This also helps the look of the obi feel a little less formal.

Now dressed, we headed off to my favorite place in San Jose's Japantown: Nichi Bei Bussan.

Nichi Bei Bussan is located at 140 E. Jackson St. in San Jose. The San Jose location has a history that dates back to its opening in 1947, though the original store opened in San Francisco in the 1890's. Today, Nichi Bei Bussan's focus is on traditional Japanese goods ranging from ceramics to kimono, fabrics and futon. They also carry a select range of books in English regarding many aspects of Japanese life, culture and craft, as well as martial arts books and equipment. Many of their items are heirloom consignment pieces, with some of the proceeds going to the Yu Ai Kai, a local senior center.

This display greets visitors as they come in through the front doors.

The display to the right of the photo is set up to look like a traditional room with tatami floor. Behind me there is a large selection of women's kimono.

This is where many of the obi on consignment can be found, and one of my favorite places to browse.

Several displays are dedicated to housewares and ceramics. Here you can find tea pots and sake sets, as well as traditional lacquer-ware and heirloom pieces.

These photos represent only about half of the store-- we didn't browse the books or fabric on this day, both of which are in the back-half of the store, along with a display of traditional futon and tatami sets.

Arlene, the proprietress of the store, came out to chat for a few moments and even took some photographs for the store's Facebook page. In our conversation, she asked if I would be walking about, adding a little color to Japantown. I answered that I would be-- after all, that was part of the reason I had dressed for the day.

The wearing of kimono is all about "adding some color." Where to add color is a question that I always consider as I dress, though the question doesn't apply simply to the ensemble. Where I will be going in that ensemble? Will it be too much color or too little? I'm still learning the best way to answer these questions and I am sure that I shall find more questions in the process. I think, though, that this day's venture was a success and for now, I will save the color that is the rest of our Nihonmachi for another day.

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